NY Fringe Show: The Spider Tells Haunting Tale of Naked Conjoined Twins
by Jonathan Mandell
A man and a woman sit naked in a bathtub. He complains about her cooking, she about his breath and his smoking. A married couple? No, brother and sister. Odd, incestuous behavior for siblings? They are conjoined twins - more commonly called Siamese twins.
But these are Bulgarians. "The Spider," one of the international entries in the New York International Fringe Festival, is a production of a Bulgarian company called Theatre B+, which is about the grade I would give it. The hour-long play, performed in Bulgarian with English super titles, presents enough brutal twists and haunting turns to keep our attention, helped along by the bravura acting of the two-member cast, Penko Gospodinov and Anastassia Liutova.
It is a special day for Martin and Martha, not just their birthday, but the day before they will finally be surgically separated. Martha says she wants this; Martin says she doesn't. But both are ambivalent - about their future, about their past, about their relationship. Their jousts and parries take on the feel of a game whose rules keep changing.
This is actually the second Bulgarian play I've attended in New York within the past year. The first, "The Eyes of Others" by Ivan Dimitrov, was the inaugural production in the new home of The New Ohio Theatre. Like that one, this one (brought to America with the aid of the Drama League) tries to promote its Bulgarian origins as being unprecedented and intriguing (The first line of a press release for The Spider is: "The Bulgarians Have Arrived.") A vibrant theater scene does seem to be developing in Bulgaria, but, as I wrote in the review of the previous Bulgarian play: It is important to point out that Bulgaria is now a democratic republic, and should not be mistaken for a politically repressive place like Belarus, a thousand miles to the north, whose brutal surreal theater is an act of journalism.